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EPiServer, Ektron and The Digital Experience Cloud

Late in 2014 EPiServer announced that a majority share of its holdings had been bought out by a specialist IT and software Equity Company, a company which also held a majority stake in the CMS platform Ektron. Two months later EPiServer and Ektron announced that they would be taking the best parts of both of their products and merging them to create something that gave all their customers the best of both worlds, and at the time it was revealed that the EPiServer CMS would form the foundation of that combination, with the combined might of both software teams working to apply some of the great features of Ektron CMS to the EPiServer platform.

Fast forward 3 months and the new company, EPiServer, have released their first quarterly update detailing both what’s been happening since the announcement and also what to expect from the CMS and company going forwards.

We wanted to let you know what’s been announced and where the platform that underpins your website is going in the next 18 months!

Version Numbers?
Before we get started with new features though, you may be aware that in early April version 8 of EPiServer was released. Unlike previous full point updates it brought very little in terms of functional or feature changes, sticking by and large with the core 7.5 codebase, the reason for the full point change in version number was that the libraries of code that underpin the platform were changed and extended to allow for Ektron components to start to be migrated over to EPiServer.

This also rang in significant changes with how EPiServer will be managed from a version point of view, with the CMS no longer being referred to as 5, 6, 7 or 7.5, but now by the new name of EPiServer Digital Experience Cloud, with specific releases being references by their year and quarter of release (whilst weekly code releases will still occur for developers, a marketing quarterly release will be made with all changes and features rolled up into it).
The first of these releases EPiServer Digital Experience Cloud, Spring 2015 is expected in May this year.

What’s in a name?
Cloud you may be asking? But we’re not on ‘the cloud’? You’re right, and up until now EPiServer has not really played well in that environment. But that’s all changing with EPiServer now providing a fully scalable cloud based license and hosting solution which are no longer based on the number of servers and sites that you have, but instead are based on the number of page views that you receive.

Pricing is due to be revealed in May and will be available for both CMS and Commerce products.

New Ektron features
The Spring release of EPiServer Digital Experience Cloud is expected to bring the first set of tools over from the Ektron platform, those being Digital Experience Hub and eSync Content Staging.

Digital Experience Hub
The Digital Experience Hub will provide pre-built connectors into leading enterprise applications – helping marketers customize and personalize a site visitor’s experience in a much more powerful and easy to use and configure way than the connectors that EPiServer has traditionally supported. The Digital Experience Hub has the power to connect to CRM, Marketing Automation, Web Analytics and SharePoint.  Each of the connectors is tailored to the specific needs of the third party application and goes a long way to removing the need for bespoke development to get these systems communication with each other.

eSync Content Staging
EPiServer already has great editor features and provides strong workflow and asset management facilities allowing editors to create and modify content directly on production servers – but there are always going to be circumstances where organisations need to edit content in a staging environment and have that pushed out to either one or more production, development or DR instances. This was traditionally accomplished in EPiServer using the mirroring service – a service which EPiServer themselves have warned people against using for some years. eSync Content Staging will replace Mirroring in the next release of EPiServer Digital Experience Cloud – not only for content, but for code, imagery and all the digital assets associated with your site!

eSync Content Staging will Automate the secure provisioning of web content, code, assets and templates from development or staging environments through production and DR. It will allow you to deploy only necessary changes, be that a single content update or an entire site.

Into the Fall – The Autumn release
Having delivered some of the best and most used aspects of the Ektron platform into EPiServer, the plans for later in the year involve delivering enhancements to workflow – something that for way too long in EPiServer have had to be programmatically defined, changes to the xForm platform – bringing in new ways of editing these used defined forms, and also working on the HTML and CSS output of them so that they are rendered in a more consistent way when you use them, and finally Instant Templates – a feature which EPiServer are being somewhat tight lipped on but we fully expect to redefine how EPiServer templates are created and edited!

The Fall release of EPiServer is also expected to deliver long promised solutions for delivering Campaigns (that is grouped changes to pages, products, assets and other CMS/Commerce based content) and a much improved discount engine for the Commerce product.

Beyond 2015?
Obviously the further into the future we start to look the more fuzzy the functionality to be delivered and the expected drop dates become, but these are a few of the things that the new EPiServer development team will be working on in the next year…

  • Profile store, delivering a CRM-esque store where user behaviour can be registered, tracked and used with personalisation features to bring about brand new ways of tailoring your site for your visitors
  • Content optimisation, taking the current CMO and Optimised block functionality and improving that significantly by using new Ektron based technology
  • Behavioural content, allowing you to tailor the site based on behaviours that users exhibit – going beyond personalisation into a platform that learns and changes content based on previous similar visitor actions
  • Social functionality, bringing blogging, forums, and other EPiServer Community features into the core EPiServer platform
  • Experience builder, replacing or augmenting the current way of building personalised content

Here at twentysix we’re very excited to see what the next couple of years will see in the world of EPiServer, and we’re committed to ensuring that we keep up with these changes so that we’re always able to give you the best advice and deliver you the best website that your CMS platform can deliver!

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